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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS MAN-E-FACES
By Thomas Wheeler

The original Masters of the Universe line did not lack for built-in gimmicks. Many of the figures had spring-action waists, which allowed them to pull back and then release a powerful punch to an opponent. Then there were the likes of Battle Armor He-Man and Skeletor, which enabled the line to maintain the presence of its two core characters, while presenting them in slightly new forms with new gimmicks -- armor that had a section on a rotating, spring-activated drum that showed various levels of battle damage.

Then there were individuals that had unique gimmicks. Tri-Klops, for example, had a rotating, three-eyed visor. Ram Man, an entirely unique figure, had a spring-activated body whereby his legs could be compressed into his torso, and when they finally spring back, Ram Man could -- well -- spring into action. Mekaneck had an extending mechanical neck. Strange characters like Rokkon and Stonedar could fold up into boulders.

The Masters of the Universe Classics line has largely avoided gimmicks. The figures at least do not feature spring-action waists. The rotating armor of the Battle Armor figures has been replaced by individual plates that can be snapped into place. Some characters have retained their gimmick because it is such an essential part of the character. Tri-Klops, for example, retains his rotating visor. Ram Man has yet to appear in the line, and I find myself wondering if this is because he would require an entirely new set of molds, and probably couldn't retain his particular gimmick AND have a decent level of articulation. There's no word on Mekaneck as of this writing, either.

And then we come to MAN-E-FACES. Here we have a distinctly popular character, whose very name pretty much requires that he come with his trademark gimmick, but who, likely as a result of this, has taken his sweet time being worked into the action figure line. No great surprise, perhaps, the figure of him is highly distinctive -- and, as it turns out, is even more extensive than his predecessors from both the original and the 2002 incarnation.

The idea of an action figure with a changing face does not start with Man-E-Faces. Indeed, at least insofar as Mattel is concerned, the idea really started within the Big Jim line, as strange as that may sound.

Big Jim was Mattel's major action figure hit of the 1970's. Originally proposed as an athlete, and intended as a non-military action figure to supplant Hasbro's G.I. Joe, during a time when the military was unfortunately quite unpopular, Big Jim was a very nicely made 10" action figure with a muscular build and a wide retinue of athletic capabilities, brought forth in an assortment of uniform sets and other playsets. Technically, Big Jim's main gimmicks were rubberized arms concealing an endo-skeleton with a flexing bicep muscle, and karate-chopping right arm that could be activated by a panel in the back of the figure. Neither was any particular hindrance to either the look or the function of the figure.

Some years into the line, Big Jim shifted gears. He became a crime-fighting adventurer. Not quite a super-hero, but perhaps a little more gung-ho than G.I. Joe's "Adventure Team" had become. He organized a team of individuals known as the P.A.C.K., which stood for "Professional Agents/Crime Killers". One of those times where you sort of know the abbreviation came before the explanation.

Of course, what good is a team of good guys without a bad guy? And so a villain was invented, by the name of Zorak. I honestly don't recall Zorak's origin per se, but he was a creepy-looking character who ran around in a hood and a cape, no shirt, black trousers, and caused trouble for Big Jim and his allies.

However, Zorak didn't have the same karate-chop arm as most of the other figures. And his hood was not fabric. It was made from plastic, and almost looked like a hood-like helmet. The hood was needed to hide some of the mechanics of Zorak's main gimmick. By pressing the button on Zorak's back, his face changed from human to a scary green-skinned monster! Precisely how or why Zorak managed this, I really don't remember.

Zorak's face -- either of them, really -- showed through a small panel in the front of the hood. And I'm fairly convinced that he was something of an inspiration for Man-E-Faces in subsequent years. At the very least, he certainly proved that a multi-faced action figure, with only one of his faces showing at any given time, was technically possible.

And so we come to Man-E-Faces. As with most Masters of the Universe characters when they were first released, Man-E-Faces wasn't given much of a background story. Neither the toy line nor the original Filmation animated series was much concerned with such things, especially when it came to supporting cast. However, the 2002 animated series did provide Man-E-Faces with more of a background, and this has been carried over into the scroll-like bio card which appears on the back of the package card of the new Classics figure. It reads as follows:

MAN-E-FACES - Human...Robot...Monster
REAL NAME: PERKAEDO

Perhaps the greatest actor on Eternia, Perkaedo, the Master of Disguise, performed before King Randor and Queen Marlena at Prince Adam's 18th birthday celebration. It was here that he drank a magic potion, created by Skeletor, that transformed him into a terrible monster with great strength, loyal only to evil. With the help of He-Man and the Sorceress, Perkaedo was cured from this transformation, but the process left him forever split between not just two but three personalities. He now uses his powers to protect justice in his greatest role: as Man-E-Faces, the man who is three warriors in one - fighting as a human, robot, or monster!

I honestly have no idea where the name "Perkaedo" comes from, or if it has any particular meaning. The "real names" that have been created for various Masters of the Universe characters in the Classics line have been interesting, but they've also been all over the map. Two of them -- Optikk and Clawful -- aren't even verbal! Certainly it's interesting, and easily as diverse as the various life forms to be found on Eternia itself, but I also tend to think that looking for any particular meaning, hidden or otherwise, in some of them, is only likely to result in a headache.

Toywise, as a Master of Disguise, Man-E-Faces is obviously limited to his face. Visually, this tends to seem less than effective. Regardless of what face he's showing, the rest of his body, and certainly his distinctive outfit, remain the same. In one issue of the comic book based on the 2002 Masters series, Man-E-Faces did take on the disguise of a Snake-Man, in order to pry information out of the captured Kobra Khan. In this instance, Man-E-Faces looked entirely like a Snake-Man. One might speculate that there is some sort of disguise or projection equipment in his uniform. Certainly it's futuristic-looking enough. Just as certainly, toy technology isn't quite that advanced yet. So we need to use a little imagination and assume that whenever Man-E-Faces' -- face -- shifts to one of its alternate modes, the rest of him manages to be equally convincing.

So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, and extremely effective, as well! One thing I'd like to note right off. Apparently there was some discussion as to what color to make Man-E-Faces' skin. Although reasonably Caucasian, the original Man-E-Faces, and for that matter the 2002 version, had a distinct orange tint to the skin color. No particular explanation for this was ever given. Some thought that the orange was actually meant to be part of the costume, although I, for one, never had that impression. And there's no shortage of Masters characters that -- whatever their skin color -- tend to go around rather minimally garbed.

Fortunately, as far as I'm concerned, Mattel opted to give Man-E-Faces a more normal skin color. He no longer looks as though he found a bottle of bargain-basement "instant tan" lotion somewhere.

Man-E-Faces uniform is rather atypical, and quite high-tech looking. The massive helmet cannot be ignored, but since this is also the focal point of his distinct ability, I would like to save that for last.

Man-E-Faces appears to be wearing a sort of exoskeletal armor, which leaves his chest, part of his arms, part of his back, and his upper legs exposed. The armor is mostly blue in color, with some purple trim.

Some parts of the figure are clearly carried over from other figures, notably Trapjaw as far as the lower torso and legs are concerned. In fact, it was right around the time Trapjaw was released that people started talking about wanting to see Man-E-Faces brought into the line, since some of the parts to make him now clearly existed. Obviously, the color scheme is different.

Man-E-Faces does not have the conventional furry loincloth. Instead, his waist piece is more armored-looking, and reflects the pattern of the rest of his uniform. Most of it is blue, and smooth, with ridged purple panels on the front and back.

Similarly, Man-E-Faces arm armor is mostly smooth blue, with ridged purple shoulders, although there are some raised and ridged details on the blue portions, especially at the elbows and gauntlets.

The boots are quite high, and mostly blue, with ridged purple panels at the top, although again, there is a greater level of detail in the blue, although nothing specifically marching the ridged pattern of the purple panels. Other painted detail is excellent. Some tiny rivets and other small details in the blue areas of Man-E-Faces armor have been painted a bright metallic blue. It's attention to tiny details like this that is one of the reasons the Masters of the Universe Classics line is so impressive.

I am of the opinion that the arms are entirely new pieces. Certainly the shoulders are. One very slight complaint here is that they're not the best fit in the world for the torso. They're slightly loose. The figure isn't floppy in his articulation, but he could stand to be tighter, and I'm fairly certain it's the shoulder pieces that are the cause.

Man-E-Faces' chest is criss-crossed with a series of double pipes, ridged and purple in color. On the front, they converge in the center of the chest, in a small blue device that has two small, metallic purple cylinders attached to it. On the back, they meet at a descending portion of the helmet itself.

And now, we must discuss the helmet. Perched atop Man-E-Faces hopefully very strong shoulders is a huge, tapered helmet. Mostly blue in color, with a purple top, the helmet is highly and intricately detailed, allowing only a small rectangular aperture in the front, through which Man-E-Faces' face shows through.

The base of the helmet is part of the torso, so at least the upper torso of the figure is entirely new. And certainly the rest of the helmet is.

One must believe that the "default" setting for Man-E-Faces is his human face. It's a fairly average face for the most part, nothing all that unusual about its basic expression or anything. There are purple panels on either side of the jaw, and Man-E-Faces is also wearing an angular red mask over his eyes. The color is certainly rather incongruous with the color scheme of the rest of Man-E-Faces' wardrobe, and one is sort of left wondering what the color designers were thinking way back in the early 80's.

Unusually, in my opinion, Man-E-Faces' eyes are shown to be narrow black slits. Previous versions of Man-E-Faces have given the figure white eyes, not unlike a lot of masked superheroes out there. Why this version was given black-painted eyes, I really don't know. I'm not saying it necessarily looks bad, but it certainly looks unusual.

The purple cap on top of the helmet is actually the knob that turns the faces around. To the left of Man-E-Faces' human face is his robot face. This is silver in color, and retains the purple areas around the jawline, except now they are recessed, and ridged. The entire face is very angular. Lots of straight lines. The eyes are a wide, dark gray visor, and the nose and mouth area are a raised area with vertical ridges that have been painted silver. When Man-E-Faces spoke as a robot in the animated series, it was with a very mechanical sounding voice, with occasional sound effects thrown in that sounded like the computer of the U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek having a bad day.

To the right of Man-E-Faces' human face is his monster face. This was what he was transformed into by Skeletor's potion, and further research has indicated that although Man-E-Faces' monster form is immensely strong, it also makes Man-E-Faces subject to being controlled by Beast Man, who has the ability to control animals and other creatures. Doubtless the entire experience is not a pleasant memory for Perkaedo, so one might assume he doesn't use this very often.

The monster face is a dark olive green in color, with a thick brow, menacing red eyes, a pushed up nose, and a jutting jaw with four sharp teeth that protrude over the upper lip. The purple side panels present in the human and robot faces are not present here, and honestly, the monster face is really a pretty disagreeable visage.

Impressively, the entire head turns! This is NOT something that any previous incarnation of Man-E-Faces has ever been able to do. One must believe it was simply considered unworkable given the built-in gimmick, but for the highly-articulated Masters of the Universe Classics figures, they found a way. The helmet doesn't turn very far, but it does turn, and whichever face is showing through the aperture on the front, turns with it. As I said, this is most impressive!

But there's more! This was a serious surprise in my opinion. Man-E-Faces comes with an entire second set of faces! This is also something that no previous version of the figure ever came with!

The helmet is removable, and the three-face assembly can be switched out for the other one. The purple knob on the top is also the pin that secures the entire helmet in place. It's not the easiest thing in the world to get it to re-secure itself, since the helmet is a fairly tight fit, but it is possible.

The second series of faces features some -- well, there's no other way to say it -- some very familiar faces. (Okay, I know, that was a pretty bad pun. I'll go sit in a corner of my room after I finish the review, okay?)

The faces include He-Man, Skeletor, and -- of all people -- Orko! Now, admittedly, it's pretty funny seeing Orko's big yellow eyes and the base of his scarf peering out from the otherwise very muscular body of Man-E-Faces. This might be an impression even Perkaedo can't quite pull off. The He-Man and Skeletor faces are somewhat more effective. It sort of looks like one or the other has picked up some sort of fancy new armor or uniform or some such. Admittedly, He-Man works a little better in this regard than Skeletor, but both -- well, all three, really -- are interesting additions to Man-E-Faces repertoire.

Man-E-Faces comes with a small accessory -- a bright orange blaster. This is based on the one that the original figure was equipped with, of course. And at least it's big enough and certainly bright enough so it's not going to be easily lost.

Naturally, Man-E-Faces is extremely well articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. And, of course, the faces.

So, what's my final word? I've always gotten a kick out of this character, and I'm delighted to see him finally make his way into the Masters of the Universe Classics line. I sincerely believe that this line is the ultimate expression of the Masters of the Universe -- which is a fancy way of saying that it doesn't get any better than this. And any established character that makes his way into this line is being given a distinct honor within the concept. Certainly this is an honor that Man-E-Faces deserves, and I'm pleased to see him finally arrive. The figure is superbly well made, and his ability to turn his head, plus the three "bonus faces", are unexpected but extremely welcome additions! Any Masters of the Universe fan will certainly be pleased with this superb figure.

The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of MAN-E-FACES definitely has my highest recommendation!